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Senior U.S. lawmaker to seek testimony of Wells Fargo's board

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. congressional committee will ask Wells Fargo & Co’s board of directors to testify about the bank’s sales scandal next year, a senior Democrat told Reuters on Thursday.

Lawmakers want to press the board on its role in righting the bank after years of problems, said Representative Maxine Waters, who chairs the House Financial Services Committee. “We’re going to get some of their board members up here, and see what kind of responsibilities their board members are taking for the management of Wells Fargo,” she said. “We’re going to have hearings, absolutely.”

Wells Fargo declined to comment.

The bank’s executives have been called before Congress multiple times since a wide-ranging sales scandal erupted in 2016, but board members have so far avoided direct public interrogation. The majority of Wells Fargo’s current directors joined the board after the scandal came to light.

Former chief executives John Stumpf and Tim Sloan stepped down shortly after testifying before lawmakers in 2016 and 2019, respectively.

Wells Fargo, the fourth-largest U.S. bank by assets, is too big to be properly managed and should be broken up, Waters said.

The San Francisco-based bank is on its third chief executive since 2016. Charles Scharf, the former CEO of Bank of New York Mellon, took the lead role at the bank in October. Scharf sits on the bank’s board, which is currently chaired by Elizabeth Duke, who once served on the Federal Reserve’s Board of Governors.

Wells Fargo has been under intense scrutiny in Washington since revelations that employees opened potentially millions of fake accounts emerged more than 3 years ago.The bank is currently operating under more than a dozen regulatory consent orders, including an unprecedented growth restriction on its balance sheet from the Fed until the bank proves it has fixed its risk controls. Additionally, Wells Fargo faces federal probes by the Department of Justice, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Department of Labor.

Clearing Wells Fargo’s regulatory hurdles is the top priority for Scharf, who has already started making changes in his 2 months at the company. So far he has tapped his trusted adviser and former Obama administration chief of staff, Bill Daley, to lead public affairs and named his former colleague, Scott Powell, as chief operating officer to focus on the bank’s regulatory issues.

Reporting by Pete Schroeder and Imani Moise; Editing by David Gregorio and Dan Grebler